By Bradley A. Smith
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, as he rolls out his long-promised campaign finance reform plan this week, exemplifies why so many outside the beltway distrust D.C. politicians. The cynicism in the timing of such a plan is hard to miss, coming shortly after three members of Gray’s 2010 campaign against Adrian Fenty pleaded guilty to federal charges that they ran a $650,000-plus illegal shadow campaign to guarantee Gray’s win over Fenty in 2010.
It’s no wonder citizens view D.C. through much the same lens as they view Chicago and New Orleans: rank with corruption. And the oldest trick in the professional pol’s playbook is to call for reform after being caught up in a corruption scandal.
It is suspected that Gray, for example, employed campaign staffers who destroyed evidence and made illegal campaign contributions to a mayoral candidate simply so that candidate would remain in the race and attack Gray’s rival, former Mayor Adrian Fenty. Other charges include the Gray campaign’s acceptance of illegal in-kind help and campaign paraphernalia from a shadow campaign, allegedly funded by a local businessman who feared Fenty’s policy direction. Gray’s campaign treasurer is the latest former staffer to plead guilty.